Brancati v. Cachuma Village, LLCAnnotate this Case
Plaintiff, a former tenant, appeals a judgment of dismissal following the trial court’s granting a motion in limine filed by Defendant Cachuma Village, LLC (Cachuma), her landlord. Plaintiff filed a complaint for, among other things, personal injuries from exposure to toxic mold. Defendant moved in limine to exclude Plaintiff’s medical expert from testifying about the medical causation of her illnesses due to mold.
The Second Appellate District reversed, finding that the trial court erred in excluding Plaintiff’s medical expert’s evidence. The court explained that medical doctors are experts who are in the best position to determine the nature of illnesses experienced by patients. The expert witness here testified that Plaintiff’s “adverse health effects” were the result of her living at the Defendant's residence, where she was exposed to “excess mold growth.” The trial court ruled the expert was not qualified to make a diagnosis of mold as the cause of her illnesses. But the expert’s opinion was based on facts, not on a “leap of logic or conjecture.” Further, the court wrote that medical doctors who examine patients may reach the most probable diagnosis for a patient’s condition through a process of elimination. Here, the expert testified that he conducted “a differential diagnosis” to determine the cause of Plaintiff’s illness. This is a standard method doctors use to eliminate potential causes of illness to be able to reach a diagnosis. Further, the court explained that in addition to being a medical doctor, the expert is also a scientific researcher. His experience in that area provided additional support for his differential diagnosis that exposure to mold caused Plaintiff’s respiratory illness.